SIMPLE BUT STRIKING SPRING TARRAGON VEGETABLES

by Mar 30, 2021

Sometimes simple is best.  This recipe is one of those cases. A simple sauté of colorful vegetables is perked up with my favorite spring herb: tarragon.  I chose zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots because they are all readily available and reasonable priced. Plus, the color combination is extremely pretty when they are all tossed together.  

But you could also use this butter/tarragon combination with asparagus or green beans, too. Toss in some bright bell peppers or small cherry/grape tomatoes for contrast.  Another great combination in the summer is a mixture of green and yellow wax beans. Shallots would be a good addition to any combination, but I would stay away from the strongest onion flavors like white or red onions.

It is easy to make this simple dish: slow, gentle cooking, is all that is needed. Then toss fresh tarragon into the dish at the end of the cooking time, and your vegetables will be elevated to “wow” status. Cut the veggies in sticks like I did. Or you can slice them in rounds or on the diagonal.

Fresh tarragon makes this simple vegetable dish stand out as it does in many traditional dishes. Tarragon is a mainstay of French cooking. In fact, it is referred to as “the King of Herbs” in France.  Think of béarnaise sauce and the classic combination of “fines herbs”: the four herbs include chives, parsley, and chervil in addition to the tarragon.

Tarragon has a subtle but pronounced taste, so if you don’t use the whole bunch of tarragon, you can always add it to fish or seafood, chicken, veal, or baby red skins. Mix it into vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil for a wonderful dressing. Mash it into butter, along with chives, parsley, and lemon zest for a flavorful butter on simple bread. Add it to a vegetable quiche for extra oomph. Since the taste is pronounced—some would say powerful—add it in small amounts to start and increase it if needed. 

Tarragon is supposed to freeze well: just remove the leaves and lay them out on a baking sheet. Put it in the freezer until the leaves are frozen solid, then transfer to a heavy-duty zip lock bag. I cannot vouch for this because I always use up what I have.

Start by selecting your vegetables of choice and cut them in sticks or slices. In this case, because the carrots take so much longer to cook than the squashes, start cooking them gently, over low heat, by themselves.  Stir the carrots occasionally, but not too often.  I think they look best it they have some brown edges, so I let them caramelize a bit.

After about 30-35 minutes, remove them to the serving bowl.  Quickly sauté the green and yellow squash in the same pan—it will only take about 2-4 minutes, depending on how thickly they were cut.

Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with the carrots and about half of the tarragon. Sprinkle the last of the tarragon on top to serve.

SPRING TARRAGON VEGETABLE SAUTE

1-1 1/2 pounds each zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots
3 tablespoons butter
1- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon

Cut carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash crosswise into pieces of similar length; about 2 inches; then cut each length into strips. Alternatively, slice all vegetables cross-wise and/or on the diagonal at about 1/2 inch thickness. In large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat add carrots and cook 40-45 minutes stirring frequently until they are tender crisp. Remove carrots to serving bowl. Put zucchini, yellow squash, salt and pepper into pan. Cook three minutes longer stirring frequently until all vegetables are tender; Combine with carrots in serving bowl. Toss with tarragon before serving.

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